Time is a limited commodity for entrepreneurs. They are constantly juggling the demands of their business and personal lives without the benefits of a corporate structure. As much as I empathize with people who have a never-ending “To Do” list, I have one more thing to add to that list: professional development. Any successful entrepreneur or small business owner needs to make sure they carve out the time to invest in themselves. It’s the only way they will be able to grow and evolve along with their business.
What is Professional Development?
For many, professional development will encompass continuing education, license updates, ongoing certifications, and keeping abreast of the new developments in their field. For entrepreneurs, this will also include learning new skills needed to manage their business, such as social media or relevant technology. With my clients, I also recommend that they include emotional intelligence and personal growth as part of their personal development plan.
Sometimes this delves more into areas of their personal life, but you would be surprised how often the most seemingly unrelated personal issues can have an impact on your professional or business habits. Are you overly critical of yourself when you make a mistake? Guess what, that may translate to the way you speak to your employees when they make a mistake or may make you overly cautious and unwilling to take risks when necessary.
Makes you think, huh?
Have A Plan
All great things begin with a plan. Personal development is no different. One reason you need a plan relates to the time management thing. There are only so many hours in a day, and to maintain a healthy work-life balance, you have to be strategic with the personal development goals you undertake. The other relates to implementation. Learning is great, but without implementation, it takes you nowhere, and that takes time. Whether you’re using your newly gained knowledge to change a component of your operations or are trying to build healthier habits, these changes don’t happen overnight. Having a plan can keep you on track, so you don’t lose focus or get demoralized.
What’s Out There
There are different ways to begin your professional development, and it is important to find the option that works best for you. Here are some options:
Hire A Coach
Obviously, I strongly believe in the benefits of having a business coach as part of your personal development plan. Having someone to work with you directly not only provides an element of accountability but can also help you identify blind spots or areas you need to work on that you aren’t aware of. When hiring a coach, it is especially important to find someone that you click with and can best cultivate and instill the necessary mindset needed to run a successful business. Look for a coach who has experience and knowledge in the areas you are seeking to improve in your business.
Classes and Workshops
If you still want structure and some element of accountability but don’t want to hire a coach, classes, or workshops can be a viable alternative. Although you won’t get the same amount of one-on-one instruction you would with a coach, you do get the benefits of a structured curriculum and some level of instruction and help if you get stuck. One of my favorite recent examples about personal development involves an entrepreneur I know that runs a pool company who is in the process of getting his design degree. It’s part of his five-year business plan to grow his company’s product offerings.
It is amazing how far online learning has come. With websites like Udemy, edX, and more universities adding online degrees, there are many opportunities for you to execute your personal development plan from the comfort of your own home, and at various price points. I, myself, offer an online DIY Entrepreneurial Boot Camp that allows entrepreneurs to go through a condensed version of my coaching program at their own pace.
Books and Podcasts
I get it. Your schedule is hectic and you just simply don’t have the time for a full program whether it’s online or in person. For people like this, I recommend professional development via books or podcasts. It may not be as robust as a class, but at least it will keep your mind sharp and keep you focused on topics you may want to explore more in-depth when you have the time. I compare this to going for walks or doing short workouts during the week. It may not be as intense as training for a marathon, but it will at least keep you in the game.
There is no one-size-fits-all in personal development, so don’t get discouraged if someone you know does it differently. Your plan should be customized to your needs, how you learn best, and how much time and money you can invest. It may include one of the items listed here or combination of them. Whatever it is, heed Stephen Covey’s advice and keep that saw sharp.